EAST LANSING, Mich. — When Jenna Allen nailed the 3-pointer that effectively stamped Michigan State’s signature on a win over No. 3 Oregon, she said her mind was blank. But it was clear to see that hitting that shot meant more to her than just securing another win.
As the tears streamed down her face postgame while singing MSU Shadows, she felt all of their work prior to the game pay off.
“I’m an emotional kid so those were happy tears. I’m so proud of this team with all the adversity we’ve gone through,” Allen said. “We worked so hard this offseason and we’re still going through adversity, we don’t even have Shea (Colley). I think it means a lot and it just proves how hard we’ve worked and how much potential this team has.”
Being the only senior on this team, Allen knows her role as a leader cannot be understated. Following in the footsteps of Tori Jankoska is no small task. When Suzy Merchant pulled Allen aside recently and told her that “seniors step up” Allen took that as “senior, step up.”
“I took that to heart,” Allen said. “I’m the only senior you know I have to lead this team, so I came out today (Sunday) with a little extra emotion.”
Leading any team as the lone member with extra experience can put some extra weight on a pair of shoulders not prepared for it. Allen would have faced that challenge regardless. It reared its head much sooner than expected though when Shea Colley went down with a lower leg injury against Kennesaw State in Cancun.
Colley had been the team’s leading scorer and floor general up until her injury. While Allen has filled in the scoring role, she has looked to those younger members of her team to anchor Colley’s position in her absence.
A balanced backcourt comprised of freshman Nia Clouden and junior Taryn McCutcheon has been the formula to MSU’s success. With both players averaging 12 points a game, either Clouden or McCutcheon can pick up the slack left from the vacancy left by Colley.
And while the two point guards were impressive on Sunday, the show was all Allen and culminated just that way.
As the clock wound its way down under a minute with the score stuck at 82-79 MSU, the Spartans looked to use as much of the shot clock as possible. Everyone in the building, including Oregon, knew who was taking that last shot. That didn’t stop Allen from draining the three and closing the door on any chance Oregon had left.
“Coach called it and Nia (Clouden) gave the signal for me and I was like ‘okay,’” Allen said. “I had a shot in the NC State game to bring it to (within) one and I missed it so I wasn’t going to miss this one.”
Then, uncharacteristically for Allen, she ran back down the other end of the court holding three fingers out on both hands, just as Steph Curry would.
“The way I was playing, the way the shots were falling, I was kind of having an out-of-body experience.”
As this was the first time MSU had beaten an AP top-three opponent since 2005, it ranked right up there with any other win Allen had experienced in her career.
“This one is number one. No question,” she said. “What this means to me and to beat the No. 3 ranked team in the nation on my home floor in front of our fans, in front of Spartan nation, it’s everything.”
After this win, MSU has begun to gain some national respect, breaking into the top 25 for the first time since 2016.
MSU looks to continue their hot run as Allen, senior, continues to “step up.”